Thu, 12 Apr 2007


I'm also tired of hearing ATE pundits talk about "traditional instruments" in opposition to SI. The phrase is inappropriate. What tradition? Who's tradition? It brings to mind some kind of ceremonial process handed down from on high -- a memory stick with a read only text file that decrees "Let there always be VXI modules and ATLAS code".

The correct word to use in opposition to Synthetic is Natural. Talk about Natural Instruments as opposed to Synthetic. This phrasing makes sense as it focuses on the particular distinction being made. A synthetic is something that was synthesized out of generic components to be something specific. A natural is something a priori specific as a consequence of its essential nature.

The phrase "Natural Instrument" is a retronym. A retronym is a new name for something that had an old name made ambiguous because of advances in technology. Acoustic guitar, cloth diaper, and opaque aluminum are retronyms. Before there were synthetic instruments (and virtual instruments) we could just point at something and call it an 'instrument' with no qualification. Now we have to say 'Natural Instrument' when describing, say, a mercury bulb thermometer,' as opposed to a synthetic thermometer -- software for making temperature measurements by means of conditioning, digitizing, and processing the output of a sensor.

Posted Apr 12, 2007 at 19:47 UTC, 213 words,  [Permalink

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